Monday, April 27, 2009

Laid to Rest (2009)

The horror genre is littered with horrible, direct-to-DVD slasher flicks that are seemingly released every week. While a few good ones can be found, these are far and in-between. Though I had heard a good buzz around Laid to Rest, I still approached the film with caution, because who knows in what camp it might land?

Laid to Rest is the new slasher movie written and directed by Robert Hall, most known for his special effects makeup. The only other film he has written and directed was 2004′s indie darling Lightening Bug. Still, I was willing to give Laid to Rest a chance, especially with the spiffy-looking killer I saw in the trailer!

A girl (Bobbi Sue Luther) wakes up in a coffin with no recollection of how she got there or even what her name is. After breaking out of her “dead box” (she has a problem remembering the correct words for objects, too) she comes face-to-face with her would-be killer, a man with a bald head and a chrome skull mask for a face who videotapes his victims from a hand-held camera mounted to his shoulder. The girl escapes and is picked up by a local named Tucker (Kevin Gage). Yet, “Chrome Skull” (Nick Principe) is determined to hunt her down and will brutally kill anyone that gets in his way.

Laid to Rest certainly doesn’t try to reinvent the slasher genre, but it definitely succeeds in creating an above-average and very entertaining horror flick. It is one of the most entertaining slasher films I’ve seen in a long time and it actually manages to feel fresh despite its derivative nature.Though the film itself is basically one big chase scene, director Hall keeps things interesting by giving us likable characters, a menacing killer and “the girl’s” mysterious past to unravel. There are also plenty of nasty surprises Chrome Skull has for his victims and lots, and I mean LOTS, of awesome gore effects.

With Hall’s background in special FX, could you really expect anything less than stellar gore? The inventive kill scenes are some of the goriest I’ve seen yet this year! There are plenty of crushed skulls, stabbings, chopped up corpses, torture, etc., etc. to make even the most hardcore gorehound sit up and take notice! And the spectacular river of blood that cascades from all this carnage certainly doesn’t disappoint either! The effects in this film are far and above some of the best and most unique I’ve seen in quite some time…and that is really saying something!

The story, written by Hall, is almost equally impressive in regards that that it feels more original and more developed than most DTV horror flicks. I enjoyed the whole mystery of who “the girl” really was and where she came from, the killer’s background (given very briefly on a police website one of the characters looks up) and the fact that Hall tried to do something different that just having your stereotypical teen characters get knocked off one by one. He actually had “the girl” fight back and other characters be equally resourceful. Still, there were some problems with the script…like why every single car didn’t have enough gas to get them the heck outta Dodge, why none of the characters had phones and why the characters didn’t try to hoof it out of there on foot. And why did it take the police, who were only 100 miles away (roughly an hour and a half), all night to reach them? I guess the killer really knew how to pick the perfect hideout spot!

However, the direction on the other hand was fantastic! Everything was crystal clear and there was a definite lack of murkiness you usually get with slasher flicks filmed at night where you really can’t see what’s going on. In Laid to Rest you could see every horrifying detail, from the half-rotted and hacked apart bodies in coffins that Chrome Skull kept to each and every sudden kill scene where blood just covered the entire shot! Robert Hall really has an eye for direction and should continue pursuing it.

The acting was overall pretty good and I though Kevin Gage was the real standout as Tucker. He really makes his character believable and likable. Bobbi Sue Luther also did a fantastic job as the “final girl” and wasn’t just there for eye candy. She really gave a strong performance and didn’t let her character sit back and be the “damsel-in-distress.” There were also many familiar faces that popped up (if only for a few moments), including Lena Heady and Thomas Dekker (who are both in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles), Johnathon Schaech and Sean Whalen.

While the film has its problems, I still found myself enjoying Laid to Rest. It certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but it is definitely an enjoyable slasher flick that is head and shoulders above most DTV horror films.

Available from Amazon!

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